Picture this: hundreds of balloons against a dawn sky, dangling like baubles above a strange and straggly landscape, or perfectly positioned brunch.
No doubt you’ve seen these photos too. They look like this.
This is Cappadocia, the UNESCO site in the heart of Turkey inspiring more wanderlust-inducing images than any traveller with itchy feet can bare. It’s easy to see why hot air ballooning is number #1 on traveller bucket lists here.
However, if the idea of flying 3000 feet high gives you jelly legs, or you simply can’t get enough of the area’s bizarre beauty, here are eight sky-high views to enjoy in Cappadocia – with feet still firmly on the ground.
1. Hangout above Love Valley
Cappadocia is famous for its volcanic rock formations, and you’ll see the most peculiar examples from Love Valley lookout. Sculpted by millennia of wind and rain, these conical pillars rise out of the valley like arrow heads. Or, ahem, a certain part of the male anatomy.
It’s okay to giggle. The phallic formations are actually why this area is called ‘Love Valley’. So kickback in one of the lookout’s hammocks and marvel at Mother Nature’s cheek in erecting these geological oddities.
2. Get a bird’s eye view across Pigeon Valley
You’ll be in friendly company at Pigeon Valley lookout – and I’m not talking about tourists.
Stretching between Göreme and Uçhisar, Pigeon Valley is home to numerous ancient hollowed-out dovecots and many, many more pigeons.
For centuries, the humble pigeon has been valued in the Cappadocian region. They were used as messengers, their droppings collected for fertiliser, and their eggs were used to create many of the region’s incredible Byzantine frescos.
Just keep your lunch packed away – or you’ll find yourself in a feathered frenzy.
3. Wander through fairy chimneys in Monk’s Valley
You may not believe the fairy folklore surrounding them, but the volcanic pillars in Monk’s Valley – called ‘fairy chimneys’ – still have an otherworldly quality.
Monk’s Valley housed a hermitage of monks in the 4th century. These early Christians chiselled homes into the chimneys – an impressive feat, given some bedrooms are 15 metres high. You just hope the monks weren’t restless sleepers.
Wander through the shelters before climbing the ridge behind to see if you can peek into any of the ‘rooms’.
4. Stand king of the world on Uçhisar Fortress
Uçhisar Fortress is not the most beautiful (or symmetrical!) of castles, but it offers something far better. Carved into the area’s tallest fairy chimney during the Ottoman Period, Uçhisar served as a first point of defence and a main trade centre along the Silk Road. Wind your way through the labyrinth of rooms inside and reach the summit, where you’ll be rewarded with a 360-degree view.
See the patchwork of valleys below, the Hasan mountains and sister castle (Ortahisar) in the distance, and even spot Mount Erciyes – the volcano that created this striking landscape three million years ago.
5. Tiptoe above Göreme at Sunset Point
Sunset Point is a 15-minute walk from Göreme and, despite its name, offers a visual feast any time of day.
Since ancient times, Cappadocians have dug into the sedimentary rock to create shelters and to escape political unrest. Houses, churches and entire underground cities – some housing over 20,000 people – are strewn throughout the craggy landscape.
Göreme is a fascinating mix of these ancient dwellings and modern buildings; a sight particularly appreciated from Sunset Point.
In the evening, peer down from the suspended platform to see the town come aglow beneath you. The cave houses cast long shadows down the street, and you might hear the call to prayer echoing over the rooftops.
6. Catch golden hour over Ortahisar Castle
Wind down the windows when passing through Ortahisar, and you may catch the scent of lemons. This troglodyte village was renowned for citrus in the past and still stores many lemons in underground cave ‘pantries’.
You’ll have the clearest view of the city from Ortahisar panorama. Here, the precariously perched homes sweep up the mountainside towards the crowning glory – Ortahisar castle. If you visit in the afternoon, the buildings will be awash in golden, lemony light. Who can blame this dog stopping for a nap?
7. Soak up the sunset at Red Valley Panorama
If I had to pick a favourite valley in Cappadocia, it would be Red Valley. Named for the natural blush of the rocks, this valley is most spectacular at sunset.
The panorama point is a short drive from Göreme, but arrive early to score the front cushioned benches with your friends. Treat yourselves to drinks from the tiny café, then sit back and watch the undulating ridges in front of you shift colour under the sinking sun. There’s no better reward for a day well-spent exploring.
Feature photo by Ryan Bolton.